How to get closer to customers? AR used by fashion brands

The augmented reality, that is getting more and more well-known to an average recipient, has a great potential to be used also in the fashion industry — not only as a virtual fitting room, but also in marketing, ads and creating an engaging customer experience. How is AR used by fashion brands?

Connecting the RL with AR

You are surely familiarized with the Instagram filters, Pokemon Go game and you probably saw this Google effect, in which you can have a raccoon seated on your couch in the living room (if not, type “raccoon” in the Google app on your smartphone and choose “View in 3D” option). Now you definitely know how awesome augmented reality is!

The fusion between real life and virtual elements is more and more visible on a daily basis — we can experience it in mobile apps (for example through Instagram filters), in browsers (web AR). When clicking on a specific button or pointing the camera onto a marker (QR code, icon, photo or other graphic elements) we can see the virtual object put in the real space.

It may be hard to believe, but AR has been with us for over a decade — first through Snapchat, as it worked mostly as an entertainment feature, then started being exploited more and more in advertisement. Recently AR effects have been successfully implemented as a tool that supports decision making in online shopping by allowing us to take a closer look at the object that we are about to buy. And that’s just one of the AR features that can be used in online shopping. The fashion market is getting more and more involved with the new technologies that can offer the recipients new and exciting interactions with brands.

How is fashion experimenting with AR?

Let me show you 6 interesting examples:

1. Khaite — first presentation of the 2021 collection with AR effects

The Khaite collection for 2021 was designed as a lookbook combining offline and AR. The brand decided to prepare a special gift box with the printed out lookbook, fabrics swatches, photos of the outfit, and even some candles and vinyl, to really enhance the experience. The boxes were sent to a hundred selected recipients and they were meant to create a really unique and engaging experience.

Khaite’s lookbook , source: vogue.com & Khaite

The unique soundtrack, the scent of the candle, softness of fabrics and the collection of photos let the recipients take a sneak peek at the upcoming season — all remotely. Additionally, the experience was also introduced with a virtual shoe presentation.

After scanning the QR code from the cover of the lookbook, the recipient was redirected to a special subpage on the brand’s official web. Then, after scanning manually drawn play symbols (that are appearing next to the photos), the 3D models of shoes would be appearing on the smartphone’s screen. The virtual shoe was real-life size, extremely detailed and there was even a possibility to check how the shoe would suit our wardrobe.

source: vogue.com & Khaite

Once the experiment was conducted it became clear that it has been a great success for the brand. The owner of the collection, Catherine Holstein, declared that augmented reality is the best tool to make online shopping more tangible and full-on experience, and from now on the AR will surely be a permanent component of the brand’s official web.

2. Vogue Singapore — a series of articles featuring AR hologram of the fashion model

Vogue Singapore has recently joined the Vogue publishers family and since the very beginning, it asserts its position as the edition wide open to interactive content, technology and digital fashion.

At the end of September the Singaporean edition of Vogue has published an article, starting the series W[AR]DROBE. The first piece of the series was already enriched with AR effect, and, as it was announced, in the following months there would be an AR hologram of the model who is going to present the new styling of a given designer.

The first outfit that appeared in Vogue Singapore was by Valentino, presented by Singaporean actress Fiona Xie. While scrolling the article on a mobile phone, we can launch the AR by tapping on the last photo from the photoshoot. After that, when we aim the camera onto a free space from the background, we will see a very realistic model who is presenting the outfit. If we come closer, we can spot all the details of the clothes and even take a closer look at the fabrics used to create these clothes.

On the left, a photo from the photo session, on the right, a model’s hologram displayed in our office. Image source on the left: vogue.sg

Creating these types of holograms, despite the appearances, doesn’t necessarily mean great financial investments. The silhouette itself is based on a pre-prepared video, recorded in the green box. A bit more complicated– but eligible for automation — the process is rendering and implementing the model into the AR mechanism.

3. Hermes — AR pool in a box

This is yet another example of an interesting lookbook enhanced by AR effect. Hermes, as in Khaite’s example described earlier, has prepared a special box to present a new shoe collection, with the QR code. The instruction was really short: scan the code, put your phone over the orange box and dive into the universe of Hermes’ shoes.

source: Instagram of Norman Tan — editor-in-chief of Vogue Singapore, @musingmutley

Taking a look through the lens of the camera on your smartphone allows you to see how the box is changing into a pool filled with water, and then the marble steps are emerging just to highlight two new shoe models appearing on the screen. The QR code was launched already on Instagram, so it was encouraging to record the change and share it in the Stories. Particularly noteworthy was the very convincing and realistic model of the pool with a mosaic floor.

4. Gucci — AR fitting room

Gucci started to use the possibilities that AR offers mostly in a virtual fitting room for accessories. In their free app we can test the iconic Ace sneakers, watches, hats, sunglasses; we can test shades of lipsticks or even choose a luxury décor item to our home interior design.

Why not clothes though? Finding the specific parts of the body by the AR is way more complicated than recognizing the shape of a shoe, a hand or a head (that’s why we can “try on” a lipstick, a hat or glasses), or the shape of a room. Here, you can read more about virtual clothes.

Unlike the web AR (in Khaite example), in Gucci’s application we do not have to induce the effect by scanning the marker — the effect is brought on by selecting the icon TRY ON on the navigational tab. Right after tapping it, we can try on the virtual accessories, and then either buy them or take a picture and share it on social media.

source: nssmag.com

The thing that makes Gucci’s AR effect so unique is that the 3D projects are meticulously modeled and the movement tracking mechanisms are fully exploited. It means that the Ace sneakers are visible from different angles so the customer can actually move the foot to see the shoe moving. It certainly gives a better idea of how the shoe would look on the feet in real life.

For such exclusive brands as Gucci, the AR seems to be the easiest and the most effective tool to build the “introduction” to the relation with the potential client. Ultimately, it leads to the continuous expansion of the recipient group, therefore — potential clients.

The AR effect that can be induced on your own smartphone gives immediate access to the luxury brand. It may minimize the intimidation that some recipients may feel when they are entering an actual boutique.

After trying the virtual object on and taking a close look at it some customers may buy this very product, but second hand. The price of an already used product will probably be lower than the original price. What may seem surprising, this is also generating a profit for the brand. The high resale value is good for the business, because it impacts prices on the primary market, too.

5. Alexander McQueen — an incredible pop-up in Harrods

My absolutely favorite creation is the extension of pop-up for the iconic McQueen’s bag, Four-Ring Clutch Bag with the AR effect of the surrounding butterflies. To see the butterflies it was required to download the application, and then to scan the marker placed on the plate next to McQueen’s stand.

source: instagram @digitalinsectarium

A similar pop-up was created in an exclusive Dubaian shopping center — instead of butterflies and bags, there were scarabaei accompanying the McQueen’s iconic sneakers.

The most challenging thing was indubitably designing and creating realistic 3D models of the insects, which was accomplished by Buurva agency, specialized in model animation.

Using AR to enhance the presentation of the product — as Alexander McQueen did — or even a whole event is one of the best ways to create a comprehensive experience. Unique visual content and a strong name in the business is a recipe for success — it definitely has a great potential to get a lot of attention in social media.

6. Carlings — AR message on a t-shirt

At first glance t-shirts created by Swedish brand Carlings don’t look very much different from regular white t-shirts with the brand’s name. It changes immediately when we realize that with few taps on Instagram or Facebook we can see the hidden message on the t-shirt. Often it is a witty commentary on current affairs or politics, for example, global warming. In order to see it, we need to open the app and scan the brand’s logo with a phone camera.

Carlings is known for creating a virtual clothing line that became a manifesto against fast fashion and, at the same time, an idea to solve the intensifying tension between the willingness to buy new clothes and the impact that the fashion industry has on the environmental crisis.

source: dezeen.com & Carlings

Adding the AR effect allows changing the outfit with no negative impact on the environment and home budget. It is also a “soft” way to introduce the virtual fashion to the recipients. You can read more about Carlings’ ideas and other types of virtual fashion here.

Why is AR getting more and more popular in the fashion industry?

The biggest advantage of AR as an effect to augment the offline experience is a low barrier of involvement in an interaction. All you need to have to use AR is a smartphone with access to the Internet, which is not the case for, let’s say, Virtual Reality, for which you would need to carry special goggles. Thanks to webAR we don’t even have to download an application — the only steps that we need to take is to open a given website and scan the marker to launch the effect.

Nowadays there are more than 3 billion smartphone users. Every month on Facebook and Instagram more than 600 million people use AR effects. Moreover, more than 400 000 creators published more than 1,2 million AR effects.

Augmented reality is already our every-day reality. It doesn’t seem surprising then, that the upcoming decade is said to be revolutionary in online shopping, regardless of the offered product. Fashion may not appear to be ready for that, but surely the industry gained a lot of courage in experimenting with the technology — and definitely more than a year ago, before the pandemic.

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Małgorzata Kudła

Małgorzata Kudła

Founder of nuenofashion.com and co-owner of p-programisci.pl studio based in Warsaw, Poland